Like many parents, we found ourselves working from home while caring for our toddler, and eventually our newborn. 18 month olds are tricky. They’re sweet but require so much attention, and keeping them busy is a challenge. It’s best to have set work times when possible, so we will each try to get a few hours of work in while the other parent is on Margot duty. Each morning, we go over our schedules so we can figure out when and how to split our time. Here are my favorite activities for 18 month olds.

Activities for 18 Month Olds


18 Month Olds Love to Play and Help

Toddlers are natural helpers, so giving them tasks can be fun for them and it can help us a little bit, too. I’ve been getting Margot involved in everyday activities for a while now and it definitely takes some time, but stick with it. She helps makes my coffee (puts the pod in and pushes the button on our Nespresso machine), and helps put things away. We’ve been cooking and baking with this learning tower that also converts to a toddler table. Margot helps prep fruit or pour ingredients, and we made cupcakes and cinnamon rolls, too. 


Introduce New Toys and Activities

This seems like a fairly obvious tip, but introducing a new toy or activity that will keep your toddler busy will be fun for both of you and it will likely buy you a few moments of sanity. 

The best toys for 18 month olds

Once you figure out what toys will keep your toddler busy, you’re golden. Their attention spans can be short, so a safe play area that allows shifting from activity to activity is key. Everything’s easily accessible in baskets, so Margot can shift when she’s ready. She loves clay and coloring, so those activities happen almost daily.


Toddler Reading / Quiet Time

I know not all toddlers are into books, so if you’re struggling with picture books, peek-a-flap books are a really fun way to get toddlers engaged. Margot has struggled with sleep, so we avoid quiet time with books in her crib, but creating a cozy space with a pile of books works if you keep at it.


Screen Time is OK!

Before isolating, I limited screen time during the week. There wasn’t a set rule but since we only had mornings and evenings together (Margot is normally with our nanny while we work), I always wanted to make the most of that time together. TV was limited to weekends. Sometimes, you just have to get by. Sesame Street, Tumble Leaf, and Daniel Tiger are all sweet and educational. 


Get Your Toddler Outside

The weather is all over the place here in Chicago, but we’re getting glimpses of warm, sunny days, and always make it a point to get outside. We’re lucky enough to have a yard, but don’t really have anything for Margot other than a water table, and it’s been too cold to use that.

I’m ordering sidewalk chalk but for now, we ran around with bubbles, broke out some beach balls, pushed her in her little car, and looked for birds and flowers. If you don’t have a yard, try going for a walk or just blowing bubbles on your front steps or patio. Please be sure to consider the CDC’s guidelines before going out.


Be Active Inside

Make forts, climb through tunnels, jump, and if you’re really desperate and have the space, consider a bounce house. I bought one for our basement and while Margot isn’t the most active, I’m hoping it will get her moving.

Create a “Safe” Toddler-Friendly Space

Right before we went into isolation, I had Safety Matters (our baby-proofer) come by to mount our new living room console, bedroom dresser, and floor mirror to the walls. Our house was mostly baby-proofed but these newer pieces needed to be secured before spending this much time at home. Before Margot was as mobile as she is, I used this playpen to contain her when I needed to throw some laundry in the washer or take a quick shower, but I think she’s a little too old for that.  I have a Nest Cam on the console in our living room and one in her playroom, so I can see her if I ever need to run into the other room for a second. 

FaceTime and Online Classes for 18 Month Olds

Big City Readers is offering free classes on instagram live every morning at 10AM. We love Beth! We’ve also FaceTimed friends and family, too. She’s still young and not that into it, but it’s nice to have a friend or class on in the background while she plays.